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Summary
1.5
What we have discussed this week implies is then quite straightforward: as with any other social system, the current international political system, too, undergoes periods of stasis and change, and therefore we have both continuities and discontinuities within international politics in terms of actors, issues, and forms of actions. For this very reason, the study of global politics ought to be sensitive and even attentive to complexity. The-levels-of-analysis framework could be a useful method for the study of global politics in the sense that it can help us to recognise the complexity underlying global politics. But it has limitations, too. For example, how can we understand the interactions between actors across different levels of analysis with a given framework?
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Much the same can be said about the existing international relations theories. Different IR theories do have different views of international relations with different or competing assumptions about how the world works and how we should comprehend that world. In effect, there is no agreement whatsoever as to how best to understand or explain what is going on and what is likely to happen in our world.
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This takes us back to the basic questions raised and discussed earlier, questions that neither have clear-cut answers nor fit in either/or domains, while leading us to think that we will be better off with a diverse array of competing ideas, methods and theories rather than a single orthodoxy, precisely because there is intrinsic complexity involved in global politics. As Kegley and Wittkopf have pointed out, “Understanding today’s world requires a willingness to confront complexity.” Furthermore, in the global politics of the 21st century where actors, issues, and thereby anomalies keep increasing, faster than our answers, we must welcome various interpretations and different analytical approaches. This should be the first step that needs to be taken for the study of “Korea in a Global Context.”
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With this in mind, throughout this course, we will think about and discuss global politics, South Korea’s foreign policy, and the interactions between them. As I said before, the focus of our discussion will be on major states of Asia-Pacific region, such as the United States, China, Japan, and North Korea, and their foreign policies and actions. But this does not mean that we will focus only on those state actors and their concerns.
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As a matter of fact, our concerns will include such interesting questions as “Why does the United States continue to deeply involve in Asia even after the end of Cold War?”, “What does China want in Asia?”’, “How likely is a conflict between Japan and China to occur?”, “How should we deal with Pyongyang’s growing nuclear and missile threats?”, “Can South Korea as a ‘middle power’ play significant roles in bringing peace and stability to East Asia?”
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And all of these questions ask us to think multiple actors and factors, including not only power balance and economic relations between states, but also the roles of individuals, the roles of media, and regional and international institutions and norms, beyond the familiar dichotomies between the domestic and the international; the high and low politics; security and economy, and the individual and the state government. And I hope you will enjoy this course and find it useful and interesting. I also do hope that you will post your thoughts on topics and issues and questions addressed each week in the comments box. Tell us what you think! And this will certainly enrich our conversations as well as our understandings. Thank you!

As the previous steps indicate, the 21st century global politics is very complex. We do have more diverse actors (not only states, but also non-state actors) involved in global politics; furthermore, the number of issues that complicate global politics keep increasing.

In the case of international security, for example, not only balance of military power, but also economic and social crises, environmental problems, human rights issues, religious conflicts have become key issues of concerns. This is mainly due to the end of the Cold War and globalization marked by interdependence.

But does this mean that the 21st century international relations is completely a new world? Of course, NOT! While new types of international interactions are likely to occur thanks to the growing roles of information, technologies, and non-state actors operating across national borders, it is still a state that sets the basic rules of those operations. Also, anarchy still remains a fundamental condition of today’s global politics. The point is, there are both continuities and changes in the 21st century global politics. Today’s world has become more complex than ever before. In this light, the study of global politics ought to be broadened as well.

When we study such complex global politics, the-levels-of-analysis framework could be a useful method for the study of global politics in the sense that it can help us to recognize the complexity underlying global politics. But it has limitations.

Also, different theories of international relations do have different views of international relations with different or competing assumptions about how the world works and how we should comprehend that world. In effect, there is no agreement whatsoever as to how best to understand or explain what is going on and what is likely to happen in our world.

That’s why, it will be better off with a diverse array of competing ideas, methods and theories rather than a single orthodoxy, precisely because there is intrinsic complexity involved in global politics.

Furthermore, in the global politics of the 21st century where actors, issues, and thereby anomalies keep increasing, faster than our answers, we must welcome various interpretations and different analytical approaches. This is the first step for the study of global politics in order to have a constructive dialogue and thus progress.

“Understanding today’s world requires a willingness to confront complexity” (Kegley and Wittkopf, 2014: 24).

References:

  • Kegley, Charles W. and Eugene R. Wittkopf. (2004) World Politics: Trends and Transformation 10th edition. Thomson Wardsworth.
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Korea in a Global Context

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